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Head of Tunisia’s bakery owners union arrested amid bread crisis

President Kais Saied is targeting those he accuses of monopolizing flour amid an ongoing bread shortage.
An employee works at a bakery selling baguettes in Tunis on August 7, 2023. (Photo by FETHI BELAID / AFP) (Photo by FETHI BELAID/AFP via Getty Images)

The bread crisis in Tunisia continued to develop on Wednesday with the arrest of a nationwide union leader for an alleged monopoly amid a bread shortage.

Authorities arrested Mohamed Bouanane, head of the National Chamber of Bakery Owners, “on suspicion of monopoly and speculation with subsidized foodstuffs” in addition to money laundering, local media reported on Thursday.

The action comes after the Tunisian government earlier this month banned the sale of subsidized flour to 1,500 privately owned bakeries that produce European-style breads and pastries. In response to the ban, hundreds of bakers went on strike and staged a sit-in to protest the decision they say will put them out of work.

The government buys all of Tunisia's imported grains and cereals from international supplies and then sells and distributes it to local bakeries across the country to make flour. The state previously sold partially subsidized flour to the 1,500 bakeries making non-traditional breads. After the ban, 3,737 bakeries continue to benefit from subsidized flour and sell each baguette at a cost of 190 Tunisian millimes (around 7 cents), the price established in 1984. 

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